Action 9 investigates utility billing tactic

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ORLANDO,Fla. —

An Apopka man claims Duke Energy is playing tricks with monthly bills to trigger bigger payments.

Jim Whaley isn't the only one upset about a billing cycle change that drove up power bills.

Jim Whaley cut back on power but his latest Duke Energy bill was even higher. He blames part of that on a surprise 38-day billing cycle that forced him to pay more for less.

"We were hit with overcharges with the extra period they included in the bill," said Whaley.

A year ago Whaley didn't pay a higher rate because he stayed below 1,000 kilowatts. Now he had to.

According to Whaley, Duke representatives told him the 38-day cycle was a one-time event and it only cost him about $2 more.

"I think they could have done this very easily without penalizing any customers," said Whaley.

Customers who contacted Action 9 claim the billing cycle change is really a hidden rate increase nobody approved.

Action 9 contacted the Public Service Commission. It said state regulations allow a utility to add or subtract five billing days. The extra fees that the change generated are small but add up system wide.

"It seems once again Florida consumers are being sucker punched with new policies and costs that only pad Duke's profits," said Mike Cantone of County Watch.

Duke Energy told Action 9 it's a one-time event to re-route its meter reading strategy and make the company more efficient. It did not deny the change increased fees.

That is not what Whaley wanted to hear.

"Will they come in and say, 'We are the power company, we are the monopoly, we are in charge of the charges?'" said Whaley.

Duke Energy said customers had received advance notice of the change and the company can offer payment options to customers who want assistance.

Duke Energy Response to Action 9 Report:

Duke Energy has for years made prudent investments in the power delivery system to improve service reliability and customer satisfaction.  As part of an on-going review of our operations, we are implementing a meter reading reroute strategy that maximizes efficiencies through the wave reading concept in our Florida service territory. The result will mean fewer miles driven by our employees, faster response time to reconnect customers who fail to pay, and a more efficient business process.

We will work with customers rerouted and have a comprehensive customer assistance plan which includes providing all impacted customers with special payment arrangements and to offer other billing options including our Bill Extender program if eligible.   Before the bill due date change and meter read dates were changed, customers received letters and outbound calls alerting them to the coming change to their meter read dates. 

Customer service associates are standing by, ready to help customers.  Customers can visit www.duke-energy.com/billingupdate or call us at 800.700.8744.

The bottom line?  The change in customer bills is a one-time occurrence and we are encouraging customers to contact us if billing arrangements are needed.  We will work with each and every customer affected.  If you need anything more, give me a call or drop me a line.